As previously promised, Apple’s emergency SOS service via satellite launched on Tuesday in the US and Canada. This service allows owners of Apple’s newest iPhones to contact emergency services or share their location and status with emergency contacts via satellite when standard cellular services are unavailable.

Emergency SOS via Satellite works on all of Apple’s latest flagship iPhone models: iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. This support was added in the latest iOS update, so no additional downloads are needed.

When you launch Emergency SOS via satellite, you will be presented with a multiple-choice questionnaire that attempts to gather critical information about your situation.

After filling it, you will go through a guided process to direct the phone to send the message to the satellite. Information included in the message includes your questionnaires, your location (including altitude), your iPhone’s current battery charge, and your Medical ID if you’ve enabled it. You can also share the transcript with your emergency contacts.

This feature does not support voice calls, as voice calls are not practical on the satellites used or in all cases. According to Apple blog post in the subject:

Apple has designed and developed special components and software that allow the iPhone 14 to connect to the satellite’s unique frequencies without a large antenna. A text compression algorithm has also been developed to reduce the average size of messages by 300 percent, making the experience as fast as possible. With Emergency SOS via satellite, users can send and receive messages in as little as 15 seconds under clear conditions.

Emergency SOS via satellite “uses spectrum in the L and S bands specifically designated for mobile satellite services by the ITU Radio Regulations” According to Apple. It is sent to one of 24 satellites operated by a US-based company called Globalstar, which also operates numerous ground stations.

The message will either be relayed to the nearest emergency call center, called a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), or to “Apple-trained emergency responders” who will relay the message if the best response location is not equipped to handle text messages.

You can also test satellite connectivity without contacting emergency services as a precautionary measure. Satellite can also be used to share your location with a contact through the Find My app.

Emergency SOS via Satellite is free for two years after you activate your new iPhone, but will cost money after that. Apple published detailed support document on how to use the feature.

List image by Samuel Axon

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